Dormant Pruning

“Winter” or “dormant” pruning is an essential horticultural practice that an experienced landscape contractor will utilize at their discretion. This is essentially a hard cutback (more than you would cut with hand pruners or shears during a typical pruning session) to reshape the plant and encourage new growth to form towards the inside of the plant. As plants are pruned during the summer months, a landscaper will strategically take as little plant material off during each pruning to avoid plant stress during hot temperatures. Because of this, the plant will start to form more leaves on the outside of the plant and less on the inside, creating a very bare environment in the middle of the plant over time. It is imperative that most woody shrubs are dormant pruned at strategic intervals during their life cycle. Not every shrub needs yearly dormant pruning, but some do. Your dedicated landscape professional should be able to distinguish which ones those are.

Depending on the plant variety and the amount of sunlight the plant receives each day, be prepared for a relatively slow grow back, especially if these cutbacks are performed in the dead of winter. If viable, we recommend waiting as close to March as possible since days are starting to get longer which will promote more sunlight and rapid photosynthetic growth. This will shorten the amount of time the plant will remain bare, with Spring becoming the first active growing period of the year for most woody plant material. If hard cutbacks are being done in heavily shaded areas throughout the year, be prepared for an even longer grow-back period. Depending on the severity of the cutback needed, it could take over a year for a plant to regain its natural vigor when in a heavily shaded area.Cherry Laurel

Dormant pruning also has other perks as well. It can apply to trees, too, for instance, as this is a great time to provide limb ups and more major cutbacks on them. Less sap is lost in the wintertime, putting less stress on the tree. Dormant pruning in the winter is also great because it can reduce the transmission of diseases and pests, mainly since the frigid temperatures inhibit the activity of both.

Whether you are attempting to tackle dormant pruning on your own or trusting a landscape expert, be sure to do the correct research and come up with a plan this winter. Hopefully, the points made above will help you give you a baseline of what needs to be done and what to expect given the circumstance.  Please reach out to us today to discuss your dormant pruning needs!

Autumn Leaves – Remove or Mulch?

Leaf Removal (removal vs. mulching in turf)

As summer comes to an end so does the tree growing season. As fall approaches, property managers are left with a decision to make. Should fallen leaves be mulched or removed? When it comes to leaf removal it may be tempting to wait until all the leaves have fallen, however, it is much better for the overall health of your lawn to remove them as soon as possible. Leaves can also cause safety issues as fallen leaves on pavements, parking lots, and patios can be slippery when wet and lead to accidents.

While both methods have their benefits, in most cases, mulching leaves is more cost-efficient than leaf removal. Mulching leaves can also act as a natural fertilizer and a beneficial organic matter which will improve the overall health of the soil. Another benefit is water conservation, as leaf mulching helps retain moisture in the soil. Additionally, the leaf mulch lowers the soil’s exposure to the sun and wind, reducing evaporation. Leaf mulches also reduce weeds on a property, in turn reducing the amount of weeding or the need to use herbicides to maintain the property in the spring. A disadvantage to this method is that mulching diseased leaves can spread disease. Too many mulched leaves can starve your grass and plants of light, air, and encourage pests.

Similarly, leaf removal also comes with advantages and disadvantages. One of the main benefits of leaf removal is that it promotes better growth. Cleaning up the leaves allows sunlight to get into the grass which helps with the overall growth. The downside of not removing fallen leaves is that the area will stay damp which will lead to mold, fungus, and diseases that will damage your grass. The leaves remaining on a property can invite mosquitoes and other insects that will eat the roots of your grass, leading to several types of lawn disease. Overall, removal services in the fall will reduce the amount of time and save money on lawn services that may be needed in the spring.

Fall Preparations


The dog days of summer are sadly winding down. Be ahead of the pack and make the transition to fall a smooth one. Taking the time to think about your property’s needs and your own goals for the site in advance will make your life a bit less stressful – and hopefully making some time to seek out a hammock in the shade with a good book and beverage of choice!

First, you’ll want to think about your plan for fall plantings. This would include replacing your summer annuals with a cold-hardy display of pansies or violas. It is a growing trend to also add an installation of tulip and daffodil bulbs at the same time. This creates a huge pop of color in early spring and will really set your property apart. A big advantage of including bulbs in your plan is that they will come up year after year. A lot of bang for your buck!
In addition, now that it is cooling off, it is the perfect time to replace or add any other plantings. Shrubs and trees will thrive with the lowered temperatures and have an opportunity to get established over the upcoming months.

Plan a “walk” with your Account Manager to discuss any other ideas to enhance your landscape. Use their experience and expertise!  If there are projects you want to include, but there are budgetary constraints, it is the perfect time to get these items priced out and included in next year’s budget. Use the following 3 rules while completing your list: Aesthetics – How will this improve the appearance of my property?
Function – Will this solve a problem? Correcting drainage issues are a perfect example of this.
Safety – Are there areas at your site that potentially will cause a safety issue? Site lines for vehicles, appropriate pathways, and dead or declining trees are examples of situations that could potentially cause harm to a person or property.

Next, you’ll want to get aeration and overseeding scheduled for your property. Aeration and overseeding help your turf become stronger and denser. It helps fill in any bare or sparse areas and reduces weed establishment. In conjunction with your turf application program, aeration and overseeding give you the complete program to establish and maintain a beautiful green space.

Last, you’ll want to make sure you have your snow and ice management partner in place. It’s much easier to get these arrangements nailed down and contracts in place before the first ominous weather report! Creating a snow plan should include communicating with your contractor to establish exactly what your expectations are so things will run as smoothly as possible in the upcoming months.

Fall in the mid-Atlantic is a beautiful time. Spend a few minutes getting things together, and enjoy the season!


How to Craft an RFP

The RFP process can be a daunting task for property managers and community board members alike. The bid process contains many technical elements that can be a challenge to align with your needs, particularly for individuals with limited landscaping knowledge. The good news is that with a little planning, you can create an RFP that clearly defines your expectations and determines the best overall value in a landscape contractor.

First, it is important to determine why you are putting the property out to bid. Are you unhappy with the quality of service from your current provider? Are you bidding simply as a price check or part of due diligence? Do you need a landscaper who can provide more comprehensive services than your current provider? Whatever the reason, your RFP should address the reasons you are considering a change. For example, if you are dissatisfied with pruning but your RFP only calls for one occurrence, changing providers will not address your need.

Secondly, the RFP should help crystalize your goals, objectives, and priorities. Some common objectives our customers have shared include:

  • Improve landscape quality to improve curb appeal, increase property values or occupancy rates.
  • Create short- and long-term property improvement plans to effectively manage a fiscally responsible budget.
  • Establish a consistent landscape theme across the entire site or portfolio of sites.
  • Partner with a proven industry leader who can proactively manage all elements of your landscape: mowing, tree services, irrigation, snow/ice management, landscape designs, and installation.
  • Reduce time spent managing your landscape contractor.

Lastly, a thorough RFP will determine the bidder that best fits your needs. A qualified bidder should have and be able to prove the following:

  • Positive, quality references on similar types of projects.
  • Depth of resources, capabilities, and experience.
  • Quality, safety, and training programs.
  • Up to date licenses and appropriate insurance.
  • Tenured employees with significant industry experience.

A well-written RFP is a powerful tool in maintaining the value of your property. Chapel Valley is happy to review your current RFP and make suggestions on possible improvements. A little preparation now will pay dividends in terms of the time you save managing your landscaper and the overall appearance of your property for years to come. 

Beautifully landscaped courtyard


Benefits of a Green Roof

Green roofs have recently gained popularity in urban areas. With new buildings going up and green roofs on a majority of them, you may wonder: What exactly is a green roof and what is its purpose?

What is a Green Roof?

In short, a green roof is a rooftop garden or green space. Green roofs provide an ecosystem in urban areas by improving stormwater management, reducing building energy use, and providing a space for urban wildlife.

Benefits of a Green Roof?

Green roofs provide shade, remove heat from the air, and reduce temperatures on the roof surface. Green roofs create an extra layer of insulation in the winter and summer months. In the winter months, green roofs reduce heat loss, and in the summer months, the plants and layers of soil act as a shield from direct sunlight keeping it naturally cooler and reducing building energy usage and cost. A green roof protects the roof against extreme heat, strong winds, and temperature fluctuation. This defense against the elements can double or triple the lifespan of roofs. 

Green roofs can reduce and slow stormwater runoff. The moisture retention mats absorb rainwater, which allows the water to be released through evaporation and stabilizes groundwater levels. 

 A majority of buildings allow roof access to their tenants so your green roof can be used as an amenity to host meetings and events. Some roofs can also be used as a natural habitat area due to urban development and loss of green space for wildlife.

Green roofs are a worthy investment for any property and will provide several benefits. With a green roof, you can utilize the space you already have to not only protect your building but also help the environment.

Water Features and Fountains

The Benefits of Water Features and Fountains

Are you looking for something to really bring some pizzazz to your outdoor space? One way to make a bold statement and enhance your outdoor space is to install a water feature. There are a few different types of water features you can go with, depending on your space and budget. Water features have plenty of benefits, such as providing a restful area to relax. Who doesn’t enjoy listening to water running over a waterfall? Whether you decide on a relaxing koi pond, waterfall, fountain, or a reflecting pool, they all bring a sense of “wow” to your landscape.

One of the most popular options is a natural pool. These are made by lining a hole in the ground with a rigid or flexible liner. These can be made to look very natural, and you can decide how big or small they will be. Installation is simple, but you must ensure you have a power source to run a submersible pump and filtration system. Adding a fountain will help hide the noise of the pump and keep the water moving. Additionally, Koi are great additions to small ponds. Koi are brightly colored fish that are fun to watch and will sometimes come up to the surface to see if you have food for them.

If you would like to do a small water feature, you can go with a container pond. These have been made from wine barrels, casted concrete, and large glazed planter pots. One benefit is there is no need to dig and this will not take up a lot of space. For a little added flair, you can add some fish or waterlilies. You will still need to install a filter and a pump so the water keeps moving and clean. These containers may be deep so use caution if there will be small children or pets close by.

Another option is a wall fountain, which is good for small areas and usually come in kits. The plumbing and wiring can be hidden behind the fountain. This type of water feature is usually a basin that catches the water and a pump that circulates the water back to the top to gently make its way back down to the basin. An adjustable valve will give you the choice of a rapid-running fountain or a light trickle. The kits can be expensive, but if you have an idea and some time, you can build your own and possibly save money. Building it from scratch gives you more liberties to work with your area and fill the space you want to be the focal point.

Probably the most extensive and biggest water feature would be a stream. These can require a lot of digging and designing. Streams need to be fairly long and usually end by flowing into another water feature or a natural pool. This is a great option to add to an existing water feature on your property.

There are a few items to remember when planning your water feature. Keeping your pond clean and pleasing to the eye will take some work but the enjoyment will be worth it. The biggest factors will be filtering the water to keep out algae from taking over and the water needs to be kept moving to help keep it oxygenated and fresh.


The Benefits of Dog Parks

Dog Parks – Property Amenity

In the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households have at least one pet. With dogs continuing to be one of the most popular household pets and this number continuing to increase, dog leash laws are becoming more strict. This may leave dog owners wondering where their dogs can run and play freely. Many developments are adding dog parks as an amenity to attract dog owners and help solve this problem for the growing dog population. Here are a few pros and cons of adding a dog park to your community:

How Does a Dog Park Benefit a Community?
Dog parks make communities safer by having a place for dogs to play and socialize. Rather than running freely in an open field or cul-de-sac, dog parks are enclosed, thus limiting the opportunity for incidents. Dog parks can also help reduce the number of troublesome dog encounters by encouraging owners to socialize their pets.

How Does a Dog Park Benefit the Residents?
Dog parks can also bring the community closer by having a place for dog owners to meet and socialize while creating a dog-friendly network within a community. Dog parks can also benefit older residents and residents with disabilities who may not be able to take their dogs on long walks.

What Are the Disadvantages of Dog Parks?
Like all things, dog parks come with their own set of disadvantages. For one, while we may think we understand our dogs, we can never predict our pets’ behaviors. The potential danger from aggressive dogs and injuries from dog-related incidents are something to consider. Other things to consider are those who leave their dogs unattended or those who do not pick up after their dogs.

All things considered, any additional amenities to a community will boost the property value and attract a wider range of potential residents. As the dog population continues to grow, dog parks are beneficial and something to consider.


Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal and Spring Tips

Research shows that people form a first impression within seven seconds of seeing something novel. Whether your concern is to maintain property values, increase occupancy rates or improve the overall experience for visitors/tenants, curb appeal is a critically important element of your success. Below are several ideas to ensure your property always puts its best foot forward.

  1. Pay particular attention to high visibility areas. Street entrance sign monuments, building entrances, and courtyards are the highest visibility areas and offer the best opportunity to make an impression. These are the areas to spend for high-impact items such as annual flowers, planters, and fountains. These areas should always be in immaculate condition. No weeds, debris, trash, or gum on the sidewalks. Remember, you have only seven seconds to impress your guest!
  2. Trees and shrubs should be neatly pruned to eliminate low-hanging branches, crossing branches, and any dead material. Associated beds should be mulched and weed-free.
  3. Turfgrass areas should be lush, deep green, and weed-free. Turfgrass areas should also be properly trimmed and edged to give a clean, crisp appearance.
  4. Does your choice of plant material complement your building structure? Plant shape, texture, and color can all be utilized to enhance the look of your building. While “looser” or “floppy” plants can be excellent choices for residential cottage-style gardens, they may not be the best choice for more formal sites such as office complexes or retail centers.
  5. Don’t forget the night! Just because the sun has set doesn’t mean people stop looking at your property. Consider up-lighting of specimen plants and/or building facades to make your property sizzle at night.

Earth Day

What We Can Do to Help Our Planet

We all know our planet is an amazing place, and now more than ever we must strive to protect and promote the beauty of our one and only planet earth.

Earth Day is an event held every year on April 22nd to raise awareness and bring support to the protection and sustainability of the Earth’s environment.

The first Earth Day occurred in Wisconsin in 1970 and spurred both national and international rallies across the world. Today, Earth Day is celebrated by nearly 140 countries that strive to protect our planet from environmental dangers.

Here are some things you can do not just on Earth Day but every day to help reduce your environmental impact:

1. Plant a tree!
2. Pick up litter and recycle when possible
3. Reduce water and electricity usage
4. Minimize single-use plastic bags by using reusable tote bags.

When we all come together, we can make the world a cleaner, healthier place to live.

Turf Care

The Benefits of Adopting a Well-Rounded Turf Care Program

The grass is always greener on the other side…or is it? While the grass may appear greener, it may not actually be grass at all. There is one type of green growth many fail to recognize or consider: turf weeds.

So, what’s the big deal? If all the turf areas on my site are green, all is well, right? Not necessarily. Like grass, many turf weeds are, in fact, green. Some are extremely easy to spot, while others may take a trained eye to point out.

You may wonder if weeds in your turf are really an issue. I’ll keep things simple and give you two main reasons why turf weeds are highly undesirable. The first is this: weeds in the turf “steal” available nutrients and water from the healthy, desirable grass. This can cause the grass to weaken and become more susceptible to bigger issues like drought and disease. Another reason is that many turf weeds are just downright unsightly. There is a reason the expression “growing like a weed” exists. Many weeds grow extremely quickly when fueled by a combination of heat and rain, much faster than the grass grows. This can cause a lack of uniformity and makes the turf look disheveled and unkempt between mowing visits, especially if visits are delayed due to rain. Remember, rain plus heat equals weeds.

Luckily, there are ways to combat those pesky weeds. A good turf care program will accomplish three main things: the prevention of new weeds, the elimination of existing weeds, and the strengthening of the healthy turf.

Firstly, a preemergent herbicide should be applied in the early spring to prevent weeds before they even begin to present themselves. This is by far the most efficient way to control weed issues; however, some weeds are bound to make their way through. Also, preemergent will not kill existing weeds.

For existing weeds or weeds that are able to sneak past the preemergent application, selective herbicides should be used to combat and kill the weeds without harming the healthy grass.
In addition to the various herbicide applications, any well-rounded turf program will include multiple rounds of fertilization. Fertilizer contains macronutrients, like nitrogen, which help condition the soil. In turn, the grass is set up for success. The grass will be able to grow a stronger root system, which directly contributes to more efficient water intake. This helps the lawn to grow much thicker and fuller overall, which is an important factor in crowding out/choking out weeds.

A turf program takes time to be completely effective – it is not an overnight wonder or a miracle cure. However, if followed consistently over time, the change in the appearance of your turf can be night and day. You too can have uniform turf that even golf courses would be proud of. If you have never considered a turf care program, it is never too late to start reaping the benefits.